Journal Entries from a First Year Teacher

I know, if you’re reading this, you’re thinking, “Shara, you’re not a first year teacher!”….well, I was at one time….and I had this great idea of writing down all of my “moments” as a first year teacher (the good, bad, ugly…and funny) and make a book out of the entire experience. Well, suffice to say, I only wrote a few entries, so I don’t have a BOOK of my first year. But, I’ve been encouraged to share what I do have…and since this has been sitting in a folder for 5 years, I thought I’d let it come out and “breathe a little” on my Facebook Notes page.

Please note that students’ names have been changed, mostly, each has a nickname I gave them based on their traits or stories of them in class. This one is about Joy. Enjoy!



I’m content to wrap up in my down comforter with a glass of wine tonight. The chaos of my life wraps around me yet I’m content and still inside. Warm, peace-filled and quiet is my spirit.

Winter break is rounding the corner. Ten glorious days I’ll have to myself…well, five to give away to my family, and then five to give away to my career. Perhaps I’ll find time for myself in the days ahead to get some excercise, play and socialize. Maybe….just maybe….I’ll find THAT time.

Today was a good day in my classroom. Yes, it had its typical frustrations. “Marshmallow” was at my heels asking her monotonous quesitons. “Spoons” didn’t have his homework, neither did “Sensitive”, “Gadget-man”, “Coaster”, and “Smarty”. All of them had to catch up from days absent. As I juggled make-up tests, giving modifications to tests, taking up homework, taking roll, organizing turned in paperwork to go to the office and resolving conflict from the previous day’s activities….at 40 minutes into the morning, the day was off to a typical start.

As I taught my classes I worried, “Is this the right information to teach them…will THIS be on the SOL test?…Am I doing this right? Why isn’t the teacher’s manual more detailed and more perfectly laid out?” My frustrations were at a typical high and my patience was at an unusual low for a Tuesday. Gesh, it was only TUESDAY! I tried to regain my patience after I snapped at a student right before lunch.

Thankfully, there were several moments during the day that brought a smile to my face and a calm to my spirit. An E-mail from a parent saying her son came home last night talking about “CHANGE”…a topic of the lesson the day before. The excitement of the week rubbed off into Science class leaving nothing but endless chatter between our activities. A bright spot during my Language Arts class when the discussion was so heated, so rapid that even I couldn’t put the brakes on it with the “Quiet Bell” or “Hand Up” signal…they seemed to sing together in a chorus, “Can we keep doing this?? This is FUN!” The “First Year” teacher inside me, still weak and wobbling to my feet, doubting if learning was even taking place retorted, “No, we must move on, we’re running out of time!” The fact that they enjoyed the lesson was enough for me, but the “Benchmarks of learning”, “POSes” and “SOLs” were what the administrators and parents wanted them to learn and pass (and I’m still learning myself what all these things are in the first place!). I moved on quickly with the lesson.

The brightest spot in the day was in the morning when Joy brought in a dozen pink roses and a card. (Thus her new “name”, “Roses”). I’d already gotten a few other gifts, and was pleasantly pleased with them all…but this one was special. First, I don’t know how she knew, but I LOVE live flowers…especially roses! But the most special part of this gift was the handwritten note attached. “Dear Ms. Carter, I am so glad you are my teacher! You are the kind of teacher every kid wants. You are kind, caring, and patient. I hope you have a Happy Holiday. I hope you like the roses. Love, Joy”. I do love the roses. Theyr’e in my dining room now. But I love the note even more. Thank you, Joy, for reminding me why I’m doing what I’m doing. Thank you for letting me know that I am making a difference even though I don’t feel like it.

Ten years from now, you may never remember that Science lesson you and the others talked your way through. You may never remember how to find the area of a circle, or the rules of a Socratic Seminar. You may not remember ME, Joy. But I just want to thank you for giving a gift larger than that bundle of roses you gave me today. It’s a gift that will carry on through the year. You gave my heart just a little more strength to carry on through the day-to-day turmoil when parents are beating me down with criticism. You gave my spirit strength to wade through the mounds of paperwork each night and weekend. You reminded me why I’m doing this…why I came back to this. You reminded me what it means to TEACH. Thank you, Joy.

Tonight I’ll go to sleep happy and content. My life isn’t glamorous. I’m not, nor will I ever be in any sort of “Hall of Fame”. I’m just one person curled up in a small bed housed in a messy townhouse in Virginia. I work in a little classroom in an elementary school of one of the many public school systems in our great country trying hard to “leave no child behind”. In the world’s view, what I do isn’t world-changing…but in my view, and (I think if you asked her today) in Joy’s view, what I do IS life-changing…one day at a time, one moment at a time….(with God’s help!) I change the lives of my students ……and at times, when I’m lucky, one of my student’s changes MINE.

One thought on “Journal Entries from a First Year Teacher

  1. You are an awesomely gifted “Child of God” with the awesome ability to write beautifully, teach incredibly well, and serve him by giving those gifts back to so many. Thank you Lord for blessing me to be this wonderful woman’s mother!


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